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  1. ITV Report

Women wearing burkas are 'apparitions of pre-medieval culture' says new UKIP Assembly leader

Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The new leader of UKIP in the Welsh Assembly, Gareth Bennett AM, says there needs to be a debate over the wearing of the burka and niqab in Britain.

It follows comments made by the former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that women wearing the burka 'look like letterboxes'.

In his first interview with ITV Wales after being elected as the party's Assembly leader, Mr Bennett said that he would rather muslims didn't wear the burka or niqab because it didn't show an attempt at integration into British society.

He said: "I think it is part of an alien culture and I think that it's better for Muslims if they're coming to live in Britain or if they've grown up in Britain and they're second or third generation immigrants they need to try to integrate into British society and it seems to me that wearing a burka or niqab on the streets of Britain does not indicate integration."

Mr Bennett said that when he sees people wearing the traditional dress he feels uncomfortable and described it as 'not a pleasant feeling' adding: "I would say many people in Britain who are British and who regard themselves as having British values to be confronted by these apparitions that seem to be of some kind of pre-medieval culture."

In response the Muslim Council of Wales have described his comments as cowardly and Islamophobic.

Gareth Bennett’s attack on Muslim women who wear the face-veil is cowardly and Islamophobic. Like Boris Johnson, he has used his privileged platform as a politician to attack a religious minority over an item of clothing.

Bennett is wrong to describe to the face-veil as “alien”, and “pre-medieval”. Muslims have been part of Britain and Wales for centuries, contributing to their growth, wealth, and culture. This is not up for debate, and Bennett’s attempt to ignore that Islam is part of Welsh culture reveals much about UKIP’s white nationalist ambitions.

We call on all politicians, from all parties, to resist the creeping fascism entering British and Welsh politics.

– Dr Abdul-Azim Ahmed, Muslim Council of Wales

The South Wales Central AM also says he wants to abolish the National Assembly for Wales and accepted that would be like turkeys voting for Christmas. He said: "Effectively it would be as we are represented in the Assembly so it would effectively be similar to the Brexit referendum. We would be like turkeys voting for Christmas. That's correct."

Mr Bennett also gave his views on the position of UKIP in UK politics. When asked whether, under a new national leader in Gerard Batten, the party had shifted to the right , Mr Bennett said, "very possibly under Gerard batten, yes, I think so" and that he welcomed that move.

Gareth Bennett is no stranger to controversy.

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